If Mourinho is fired, who should take over at Chelsea?

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Jose Mourinho is set to stay in charge at Chelsea despite the reigning Premier League champs suffering a disastrous start to their title defense.

12 games into the 2015-16 season, the Blues’ hopes of regaining the title are all but over with seven defeats so far and Mourinho’s title-winning team from last season just three points above the relegation zone.

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It is one of the most shocking storylines in PL history, as everyone expected Mourinho’s team to kick on this season as the legendary Portuguese boss aimed to build a dynasty at Stamford Bridge. He may still do that, as Russian owner Roman Abramovich is said to be willing to give him plenty of time to turn things around, however if the Blues can’t find their feet (and a little bit of luck) quickly, finishing outside the top four this season would represent a shambolic season for the west London club.

[ MORE: 3 things learned from Chelsea’s latest defeat ]

Sat in the press lounge at Arsenal on Sunday before the north London derby, there was plenty of chat between some of us about Mourinho’s predicament — with defeats on the pitch coupled with bans, fines and some questionable behavior off it — and everyone agreed he should get the rest of the season to turn things around. So, if he is replaced between now and the end of the season, or more likely at the end of the current campaign if Chelsea fail to rally and make up the 13 point gap between themselves and the current top four, who should come in?

Here’s a look at some of the bookies favorites with a bit of an analysis on each of the contenders to take over at Chelsea if it is “Adeus, Mourinho.”

Carlo Ancelotti – 4/1

He led them to the PL title and FA Cup during this time in charge from 2009-11 but it is highly unlikely Ancelotti would arrive on anything but a temporary basis until the end of the season if Mourinho is fired between now and January. His pedigree speaks for itself and he left on good terms, but it feels like something else is calling him, long-term anyway.

Fabio Capello – 5/1

See above. After being fired from the Russian national team a few months ago and struggling with England in his gig before that, Capello would be nothing more than an experienced stop-gap.

Pep Guardiola – 7/1

With his contract up at Bayern Munich at the end of the current season and no indications about a new deal, could Pep be heading to England after years of speculation? The former Barcelona boss builds attacking, exciting teams but if he does want to move to England, Chelsea would have to battle with Manchester City for his signature. Pep’s Barca battling with Mourinho’s Real Madrid became the stuff of legends in Spain a few years back.

Diego Simeone – 7/1

The Argentine signed a new deal at Atletico until 2020 but his odds are short and his passion would see him perfect for a role in the Premier League. You would bet on him to get the best out of Chelsea’s squad. If it is a Jurgen Klopp-esque “full throttle” approach you want, Simeone is your man. He’s worked wonders at Atletico and may want to be at a club which doesn’t have to keep selling its best players.

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton - Premier League
Koeman (left) or Pochettino (right)?

Ronald Koeman – 20/1

A look at a few outsiders now, but if there’s one man who won’t be fazed by this challenge, it’s Koeman. The Southampton manager has a contract at St Mary’s until the end of the next season but the Barcelona and Holland legend has already managed Valencia, Ajax and Benfica, as well as being an assistant for Barca. He has done a sensational job at Saints after rebuilding the squad in each of his last two seasons and he would deserve the opportunity if it came his way.

Mauricio Pochettino – 25/1

A former Saints boss, Pochettino is doing superbly at Spurs and when he first decided to coach in England he revealed that he had spoken to Mourinho about the opportunity and he is good friends with the Portuguese coach. A young, hungry manager who has totally revamped Spurs over the last 18 months, Pochettino has a bright future in the game but may feel as if he’s at the start of something special at Spurs.

Alan Pardew – 40/1

A real outsider now, but there’s been whispers that Pardew is attracting plenty of interest from the perennial big boys of the Premier League. The Londoner did all he could at Newcastle given the limitations placed upon him and the chaos behind-the-scenes, and now we are starting to see him work magic at Crystal Palace as they overachieve massively. Pardew would be a shock appointment, no doubt, but his credentials speak for themselves and he certainly has the confidence to take on a job of this magnitude.

Alan Pardew

Other contenders: Gus Hiddink, Leonid Slutsky (both probably on a temporary basis); Brendan Rodgers (just can’t see it happening for the former Chelsea youth team coach); Vincenzo Montella, Frank de Boer, Leonardo Jardim (all need a bit more experience)

How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica?

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Saturday brings a first look at the United States men’s national team in 2020, though Gregg Berhalter’s bunch won’t look anything like its best self.

The Yanks have an almost exclusively MLS roster for the match, with Hobro’s Christian Cappas, Wolfsburg II’s Uly Llanez and unattached 17-year-old Bryang Kayo in the fold.

Many of Berhalter’s best MLS stars won’t be in Carson either for the 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday kickoff. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley are the biggest names.

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Ronald Gonzalez’s Ticos will be similarly hampered, although more of Costa Rica’s A-side play in MLS and domestically.

We’ll leave the breakdown of the visitors for a later date, but who will rep the U.S. in Saturday’s Starting XI?

The travel roster includes keepers Sean Johnson, Bill Hamid, and Matt Turner, as well as defenders Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Reggie Cannon, Julian Araujo, Chase Gasper, Justen Glad, Mark McKenzie, and Sam Vines. Listed midfielders Sebastian Lletget, Jackson Yueill, Brenden Aaronson, Cappis, Kayo, and Brandon Servania are joined by forwards Gyasi Zardes, Paul Arriola, Jonathan Lewis, Jesus Ferreira, and Ulysses Llanez.

Goalkeeper is anyone’s guess, but Johnson’s got the most run of the three during the Berhalter era. The younger Turner or more accomplished Hamid may step in there.

It would be surprising to see any other center backs besides Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long given what we know of Berhalter and his respect for regulars. Reggie Cannon should start at right back and it’s between Chase Gasper and Sam Vines for the left. We’ll choose Vines out of intrigue.

Jackson Yueill, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, and Gyasi Zardes are safe bets to start, and this would seem a spot to give Jonathan Lewis more than subs’ run. That leaves one spot, and we’re pegging Brandon Servania to be the one chosen of four midfielders aged 17-20.

There’s also the matter of whether FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira will be internationally cleared to play Saturday. We sure hope he will be!

How do you think Berhalter will line them up?


How Berhalter may go

Johnson

Cannon — Zimmerman — Long — Vines

Yueill — Servania

Arriola — Lletget — Lewis

Zardes


What we’d like to see

Turner

Cannon — Zimmerman — McKenzie — Vines

Yueill — Cappis — Servania

Arriola — Ferreira — Lewis

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Report: Sheffield United in ‘advanced talks’ for $22M Norway star

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Sheffield United is ready to add one of the game’s brightest young talents to its blossoming Premier League side.

Norway midfielder Sander Berge is the name, and he’s been linked with Liverpool amongst others over the past few months.

Berge turns 22 next month and already has 20 caps for Norway in addition to 113 senior appearances for Genk in Belgium and 43 more for Valerenga in his home country.

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The defensive midfielder has chipped in six goals and four assists. He won the Belgian Super League with Genk last year and has a career-best four goals so this season.

It shows what success brings to a club, as Sky Sports reports that Berge turned down a move to Bramall Lane in the summer.

The fee is said to be $22 million, which isn’t small but completely reasonable given his stature for club and country.

This may move may join the Lys Mousset purchase as one of the Blades’ smartest bits of business, especially as Chris Wilder‘s men look for success on multiple fronts. Their success as a newly-promoted side is one of the great stories of the European season, and a place in Europe would be a fantastic achievement.

From The Yorkshire Post:

“It is going well, no doubt about it,” Wilder said. “On the Premier League front and in the Cup. You probably would not think it, but the win at Millwall has given me an enormous amount of pleasure in confirming, not even seeing, what my team is about. Players have come in with the likes of the skipper (Billy Sharp) and other players who are really driving it forward and want to produce individual performances and the atmosphere is good.”

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

Espanyol identify 12 fans who racially insulted player

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BARCELONA, Spain — Spanish club Espanyol says it has identified 12 fans who racially insulted an Athletic Bilbao player in the Spanish league last weekend.

Espanyol said on Monday in a statement that nine of the fans were club members and would face punishment that could include suspension or a full-time ban.

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It said a report of its analysis of the video images of Saturday’s game at RCDE Stadium were sent to authorities.

The club reiterated its “categorical condemnation of any displays of violence and racism.”

The fans made monkey noises directed at Athletic forward Inaki Williams, who is black. Television images showed Williams confronting the section of Espanyol fans who taunted him after he was substituted late in the game in Barcelona.

The Spanish league said it will seek a partial stadium closure for Espanyol and will raise the incident with the Spanish soccer federation’s competition committee, which handles disciplinary issues.

Transfer rumors: West Ham want $44M midfielder, Barca eyes Rodrigo

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West Ham United is being linked with a big transfer splash, and it’s not even a striker.

Uruguayan midfielder Nahitan Nandez is the man in question, and West Ham is reportedly tempting Cagliari with a $44 million offer this January.

Nandez, 23, arrived from Boca Juniors for less than half that fee this summer, and has chipped in a goal with three assists for Tommaso Giulini’s sixth-place Serie A side.

He’s got 31 caps for his national team, and is averaging 1.5 tackles per match with Cagliari. Nandez is also averaging a key pass and 1.1 successful dribbles per league outing.

Football-Italia says that Cagliari will try to tie Nandez to a new deal with a $44 million release clause if the move to West Ham is unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile Barcelona’s pursuit of a Luis Suarez replacement isn’t limited to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Marca.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu admits that Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno is interesting his coaches.

“We don’t talk about players from other teams. But [Rodrigo’s] name is on the table of the coaches, and a replacement will arrive. I do not know whether it will be from Barcelona B or from outside. I like many players.”

The Spaniard has eight goals in 21 caps, and turns 29 in March. Rodrigo has four goals and 10 assists in 23 matches across all competitions this season.

Valencia beat Barcelona this weekend to send the Blaugranas three points back of La Liga leaders Real Madrid.